Greek adoptee Merrill Jenkins began searching for his family back in March 2011 after losing his wife in September 2010.
It was a rainy day on a dull autumn morning when Jenkins felt the need to begin research to discover his Greek roots.
Jenkins was born sixty-eight years ago in a small mountain village. A few days later, he was abandoned on the steps of a church, Panagia Pantanassa. The only evidence of his identity was a handwritten note that read: “He is baptized, his name is Mitsos,” a typical nickname for those named Dimitris.
He was found and transferred to the orphanage of Patras, where he was adopted by an American couple when he was only eleven months old.
Mitsos, who was then named Merrill Jenkins, received a lot of love from his adoptive parents. He grew up in the Cedar Hill neighborhood, a small town near Saint Louis, Missouri.
The search for his adoption lasted a decade
“That morning I was sitting in front of the computer and decided to type ‘Patras orphanage,’ looking for information,” Jenkins recalled according to a report by . “I had done it 2 to 3 times before, with nothing useful coming up.”
“This time, a New York Times article from 1996 appeared in the list of results that had information about the ‘stolen’ children of [the] Patras orphanage,” he revealed. “I had never heard anything about it. That’s when I felt the need to start researching my past and see what I could find. I went to the basement and looked for my adoption file which my parents had kept, and spent the rest of my day in front of a computer.”
Jenkins contacted an organization in Greece to assist him in his investigation while he simultaneously searched for the file with his details in the archives of the US social service.
“I was hoping to find items in this folder but unfortunately there was nothing,” he said.
Jenkins finds help with the Eftychia Project
Two years later, in 2013, he decided to take an Ancestry DNA test, but all he managed to find were some of his very distant cousins.
Even though several years passed by, Jenkins didn’t give up. In 2018, he decided to upload his data to other relevant sites, such as My Heritage, to see if he could find anything more. It was then that Eftychia Noula (Linda Carol Forrest), the president of “The Eftychia Project”—a non-profit organization that has been helping children of Greek origin adopted in the USA to find their roots since 2019—advised him to take another DNA test. This time, he completed the test on 23andme, and it led to his finding a first cousin.
His cousin lived in Montreal, Canada, but his father, with whom they seemed to have blood ties, had passed away. They slowly lost touch with each other. However, Jenkins’ hope to find his biological family wasn’t lost.
One of the people he found through his searches placed him in contact with a woman living in close proximity to him in the United States. Her husband, Steve, appeared to have been Merrill’s cousin.
Eftychia Noula, along with Maria, a volunteer in “The Eftychia Project,” wanted to help out with the investigation. Therefore, they visited a café in Drosia, so they could ask the locals questions.
One of the locals at the café spoke to Eftychia, which turned out to be helpful. “Once he asked us for his name, everything began coming together as he [knew] Jenkins’ family,” Eftychia said. “He directed us to one of Jenkins’ cousins who owned a tavern in Vrachnaiika.”
“We went to the tavern to speak to the cousin,” Eftychia revealed. “She had to know the truth. We [explained] to her who we are, what we do, and [asked] whether the family would accept to take a DNA test. They all accepted instantly.”
Greek adoptee finally meeting his family
Merrill went to Greece to meet his cousins on October 31st with Eftychia welcoming him at the airport.
One day after his arrival in Greece, Merrill was surrounded by dozens of members of his extended biological family, who organized a large party to welcome him in a restaurant in Patras.
“The first time I met them at the tavern it was something special,” Jenkins admitted according to a report by ANA-MPA. “The love they showed me was something unprecedented. Greeks are very warm, especially with their family. I immediately felt that I had returned home. They are all wonderful.”
The Eftychia Project: Greek adoptees find their biological families
The Eftychia Project is devoted to providing assistance and support to Greek-born adoptees searching for their roots. It also aids Greek families in searching for their children lost to adoption.
In addition, the project seeks to advocate on behalf of all Greek-born adoptees with the Greek government concerning the issues of transparency in relation to adoptions. It also aims to provide unfettered access to adoption, birth records, and a DNA database for adoptees and their biological families as well as assistance in attaining Greek citizenship for all Greek-born adoptees.
Additionally, the project especially wants to help the thousands of Greek children adopted by American parents in the scandal-ridden years between 1948 and 1962.
The entire board of directors of the Eftychia Project currently consists of Greek adoptees and includes Linda Carol Trotter, President; Panagiota Vrisiotis, Vice-President; Merrill Jenkins, Treasurer; and Dimitrios Christo, Secretary.